Nutrition for Breastfeeding

You need good nutrition for breastfeeding

Congratulations, new mommy! The baby is here. Breastfeeding is well established. You are even starting to get an hour or two more of sleep a night. Yet, you still feel bloated, exhausted, and anxious about your milk supply. If this sounds familiar, ask yourself the following questions to discover if you are meeting your nutrition for breastfeeding needs:

  1. How many times daily do you eat a full meal? How many snacks a day do you have?
  2. How many cups/glasses water do you drink in a day?
  3. How long have you been doing your current exercise regimen? Have you resumed one?

Much like during pregnancy, your physical, emotional, and nutritional needs vary and require adequate attention during the postpartum period. Consider the following the A-Z guide an overall view of helpful hints on what to keep in mind in regard to providing adequate nutrition for breastfeeding for yourself and your child.

An A-Z guide to nutrition for breastfeeding

A: Anemia can be caused by iron, copper, folic acid, B12, Vitamin E, B6, and/or protein deficiency.

B: Body-fat composition which is much higher than normal (obesity) can affect fertility, overall health, and increase clinical complications post-pregnancy.nutrition-for-breastfeeding

C: Consume plenty of calcium rich foods such as dark greens and Greek yogurt.

D: Dietary components can influence the lactation process by modifying hormone levels in women.

E: Exercise (at very high levels) can have adverse effects on the amount of breastmilk produced.

F: Folate is directly linked to an infant’s brain development, so increase intake of folate rich foods and/or natural supplements.

G: Glucose (sugar) levels can be managed with diet and exercise

H: High alcohol intake should be avoided by a nursing mother.

I: Inform your (and your child’s) health-care provider of any concerns or questions about the ongoing nutrition for breastfeeding needs of you and your baby.

J: Join a post-natal fitness class or a ‘Mom and Baby’ yoga series to facilitate stress relief and increase energy levels.

K: Keep daily nutrition and vitamin intake at recommended levels.

L: Lower intake of caffeine, refined foods & sugars, and artificial sweeteners.

M: Make meals smaller and more frequent throughout the day.

N: Nutritional intake before and during pregnancy sets the stage for meeting nutritional needs post-partum and the initial months of breastfeeding.

O: Oral contraceptive use should be discussed with your health-care provider (if you plan to resume or continue use while nursing).

P: Preconception health services (such as folate, iron and weight status screenings) can provide insight into current post-partum outcomes.

Q: Questions about herbal supplements and remedies should always be directed to your health care provider prior to use.

R: Red raspberry, hibiscus, and lemongrass teas are a good source of iron.

S: Sexually transmitted infections can cause infertility in men and women and long-term health risks for your newborn. Get tested if you think you could be at risk!

T: Tandem nursing will require more hydration for the breastfeeding mother. Be sure to maintain your water intake at least at the recommended levels

U: Under eating or dieting while breastfeeding can cause insufficient nutrition for breastfeeding for your new baby. Eat a balanced diet full of quality, nutrient-dense foods.

V: Visit a mental health professional to improve stress management or to get help with postpartum depression.

W: Women who smoke and/or use illicit drugs should quit (and seek treatment), especially if planning to or are currently attempting to breastfeed.

X: Xanax, Zoloft, and other antidepressants/anti-anxiety medications may be harmful while nursing. Always check with your health care provider prior to taking medications while pregnant or nursing.

Y: Yoga is a great way to ease back into working out and toning muscles that were stretched during pregnancy and delivery.

Z: Zinc plays an important role in the normal growth and development patterns of breast-fed infants.

Remember: The benefits of breastfeeding almost always far outweigh any potential risk factors for you or your newborn. A few benefits include:

  1. Stronger active and passive immunity for your child.
  2. Greater chances your child will have enhanced cognitive development and function.
  3. More cost effective option than using formula.
  4. Improved psychological and emotional bonding between mother and child.

Like all facets of motherhood, nutrition for breastfeeding will have its own sets of challenges unique to you and your child. Be sure to get whatever support you need in a timely manner from a reputable source, such as a lactation counselor or consultant, a local La Leche League group, or your primary health care provider.


Rachel Werner is a Lactation Education Counselor and a Dr. Sears Certified Health Coach. She is the creator of the Green Mom Cooking series currently held in Madison, WI. Her previous occupations have involved parent education, safe environment counseling, and internet safety training. Her most valuable education, however, continues to be motherhood and evolves everyday thanks to her delightful toddler at home. Connect with her via Twitter or Pinterest.